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Neopestalotiopsis Now Causing Major Damage in Georgia Strawberries

What a difference a month can make. One month ago, I reported that we were not seeing major issues with Neopestalotiopsis, the new disease of strawberries that has caused headaches for Florida strawberry production. Unfortunately, just as in Florida, the more aggressive form of Neopestalotiopsis is causing damage on strawberry farms in several southern Georgia counties at this time. The association with one North Carolina nursery is very strong. All sites with confirmed Neopestalotiopsis received strawberries from the same nursery. Based on trials in Florida and as reported last fall, Thiram and Switch are the only fungicides that have efficacy against this organism, and even their activity is not great. Once introduced, initial reports are that it stays in the field from year to year, without regard to nursery source in follow-on years. That means that it either survives on older residue or alternative hosts that surround strawberry plantings, such as possibly wild blackberry. Initial information indicates that removing spotted leaves, starting in the fall, and destroying these rogued leaves outside the field may be of value. If so, this should be done when plants are dry (later in the day once dew has dried off) to prevent further spread and infection through these activities. If you have had a problem with this disease in 2021 production fields, I would rotate to another site for strawberry production if possible.  Also, in the future, make sure to purchase disease-free plants from nurseries that are not known to harbor this pathogen. I hope we will have better recommendations by next fall, but this disease is new to all of us, and we simply do not have a good understanding of this pathogen, its survival from year to year, spread, or control. Stay tuned. Below are some photographs and results of research trials from Florida (see link at the bottom of the page).

Dead and dying strawberry plants with Neopestalotiopsis (image from Shane Curry; Appling County Cooperative Extension Service)
Neopestalotiopsis spots and pepper-like fruiting structures in spots (photo from Mark Frye; Wayne County Cooperative Extension Service)
Strawberry with Neopestalotiopsis spot and pepper-like fruiting structures in spot (photo provided by Ansuya Jogi; University of Georgia Plant Pathology Department) .
Fruiting structures in fruit spot, each containing numerous spores (photo provided by Ansuya Jogi; University of Georgia Plant Pathology Department).
Close-up of fruiting structures (photo provided by Ansuya Jogi; University of Georgia Plant Pathology Department)
Neopestalotiopsis spores (photo provided by Ansuya Jogi; University of Georgia Plant Pathology Department)

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About Phil Brannen

Phil Brannen is a Professor in the Plant Pathology Department at the University of Georgia. He attended the University of Georgia for his undergraduate degree in Plant Protection and Pest Management, where he also received an M.S. in Plant Pathology, followed by a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Auburn University. He has extensive experience with disease management programs in numerous cropping systems. He serves as the extension fruit pathologist for Georgia – conducting research and technology transfer for multiple fruit commodities. His efforts are directed towards developing IPM practices to solve disease issues and technology transfer of disease-management methods to commercial fruit producers. He also teaches the graduate level Field Pathology Course, the History of Plant Diseases and their Impact on Human Societies Course, team-teaches the IPM Course, coordinates the Viticulture and Enology in the Mediterranean Region Course (Cortona, Italy), and guest lectures in numerous other courses throughout the year.